Note: Backtrack articles only include our ‘fun level’ factor while playing an old game. It is not a review, and is meant to be similar to a person-to-person conversation. These articles may contain spoilers. You’ve been warned.
Alan Wake was announced at E3 2005 for next-gen consoles and PC. 5 years later, Alan Wake launched exclusively on Xbox 360, followed by a PC release in 2012. Despite having a large budget, backing by Microsoft, and developed by Remedy Games (Max Payne), Alan Wake could not gain traction as a powerhouse franchise. But its story and main game mechanic will forever be why Alan Wake is one of the greatest games ever.
Remedy tried a game mechanic that I don’t think existed prior to Alan Wake, fighting enemies with light. Alan Wake is presented like a really bad dream, and as we all know, darkness represents evil in dreams. If you were ever scared of the dark, maybe your parents would give you a flashlight to sleep with, or if you woke up panicked, you’d jump out of bed and turn on the light to make sure nothing was in your room. Alan Wake follows this paradigm, have a fully stocked flashlight close-by, because you will be afraid of the dark in Alan Wake.
All enemies spawn in darkness, so you know where to expect them, but the entire game is dark, so you never know when they’ll pop-up. If there’s a big field, you can take a chance to see if there are any collectibles, but chances are there will be endless hordes of enemies waiting to attack. You’re almost never free to explore specific areas without risk, but that is what makes Alan Wake a true thrill ride.
Without its story, Alan Wake is just another 3rd person action game. I don’t know how much development time was spent on writing Alan Wake’s story, but after playing, it feels like writing was a significant part of development. Almost as if the entire story was written, re-written, and re-written countless more times to make sure that it was cohesive, understandable and interesting. In Alan Wake, storytelling drives gameplay, and Alan Wake’s story is about Alan and Alice (his wife).
Alan’s popularity is sky high from his latest novel, but he is struggling to write his next novel. Alice convinces Alan to go on vacation with her to Bright Falls so he can relax and not think about writing for a while. Bright Falls is fictional, but it looks a lot like Oregon. Alan and Alice check into a beautiful old cabin in the middle of a lake, and upon arrival they are excited for their vacation adventure that lies ahead. They are going through the rooms looking at all of the features of the cabin. Upstairs is the bedroom and another room across the hall. Alan excitedly opens the door hoping to find something that is as interesting as the rest of the cabin, although what he find isn’t what he’s looking for.
Alice knew behind the door is a study with a typewriter that overlooks the lake. This ‘vacation’ is Alice’s plot to help Alan write his next novel. But writing is not what Alan wanted. Alan becomes upset, argues with Alice and storms out of the cabin. As he is leaving, he hears Alice scream for help, Alan runs back, but he is too late. Alice is falling from the cabin and into the lake. He dives into the lake to rescue Alice, and that’s where the game starts. Alan belives his wife has been kidnapped and it is up to him to write his novel to save her. It is a beautiful, powerful story that will keep anyone engaged from start to finish.
No other game has ever provoked such emotion, fear, excitement, interest, and enchantment. Playing as Alan, you genuinely care about Alice and want to rescue her from the evil that’s holding her hostage. At first it is easy to think that light in Alan Wake only has one purpose, defeating enemies. Although as light is shined on enemies, the game progresses, resulting in shining light on Alice’s whereabouts by uncovering clues as Alan composes his next novel.
Alan Wake is a truly beautiful game inside and out. One playthrough may not be enough to get the full effect of Remedy’s very unique, deep, fun, and intriguing creation.
Alan Wake sequel on Oculus Rift? Please!